I always liked Watch the Skies, the original title of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Sadly, that wouldn't have been an appropriate title for this movie. Instead of raining ruin from above, the aliens in War of the Worlds come barrelling up from underneath our feet. It's a good gimmick, suggesting the commencement of a well-laid plan, instead of the whim of space-bullies on holiday. Still, as many critics have noted, it's perplexing. They planned this surprise thousands of years ago and they chose Newark and Osaka as launching points? Did Ur or Babylonia make the cut?

There are a few things that Spielberg got exactly right, such as the opening of the film. It works on a gut-level because the aliens simply appear and start thwonking people with lasers, without a song and dance. They are, in fact, disturbingly utilitarian. They disorient their game with cacophonous foghorns and use spotlights to track anyone scurrying along the ground. Much like the shark in Jaws, these aliens are simply a problem to be solved, not anything that can be communicated with.

categories Cinematical